Pitt's Paul Chryst not surprised by Tom Savage’s ascent in NFL projections

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Tom Savage may be a new name to NFL fans as this former Pitt quarterback has shot up draft boards in recent weeks, but Pitt coach Paul Chryst isn’t shocked by the sudden rise.

Most mock drafts project Savage as a second- or third-round pick, some even as high as the first pick of the second round. A few months ago, most experts figured he would be a fifth- through seventh-round selection.

Speaking on the ACC coaches conference call Wednesday, Chryst said he sees why NFL teams are high on Savage.

“You never know what to expect so if you said you’re surprised or not surprised you’d be wrong,” Chryst said. “He certainly has a lot of the talents and physical attributes. The biggest thing Tom hasn’t done is just play a lot of football.”

Savage transferred twice before ending up at Pitt, which Chryst said limited his visibility to NFL teams. Once they got a chance to look at the tape, they apparently liked what they saw.

“I think a lot of the buzz that comes before he wasn’t as much a part of because he hadn’t played for two years,” Chryst said. “I think what he did in the season, the combine, individual workouts, it’s been great to see. Hopefully everyone is right and his stock is rising.”

In Chryst’s seven-year tenure as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, the Badgers had 27 players drafted into the NFL. In two years as Pitt’s coach, he has yet to have a player taken. That will change this year, with Savage, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and wide receiver Devin Street each likely to hear their names called.

“I think for the program, it’s good,” Chryst said. “But most important you’re happy for those individuals. That’s what really makes it special.”

Lack of union talk

While the possibility of Northwestern players unionizing has been a hot topic of discussion around college football fans, if you believe any of the coaches on the conference call Wednesday, it hasn’t caused as big a stir inside other football programs.

Most coaches said the potential unionization of college athletes has not been a topic of discussion.

“Believe it or not, there hasn’t been any conversation on our campus,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “Early on when it first came out, I talked to the team a little bit, but that was it.”

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was the only coach to elaborate on the subject beyond that, saying that he thought players deserved a bigger voice, but wasn’t sure exactly what form that would take.

“I don’t know if unionization is the way, but I’m not saying it’s not,” Fisher said. “I don’t know enough of the situation to comment either way, and I’m not going to jump into that fire until I can research.”

Chryst gives out awards

After Pitt’s spring practices wrapped up last week, the Panthers handed out the Ed Conway Awards for the most improved players in spring practices. This year, the awards went to T.J. Clemmings (offense), David Durham (defense) and Todd Thomas (special teams).

Chryst said he took the unusual step of adding a special teams award because it was an area he thought the Panthers needed to focus on and Thomas, also a starting linebacker, was a great example of that focus.

“He sends the right message that if we’re going to get better at it everyone has to be all in,” Chryst said.

Cosentino in Seminoles’ plans

Fisher mentioned former Central Catholic quarterback J.J. Cosentino as a player who will provide depth behind reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston next season, and potentially a guy who could help the Seminoles down the road.

Despite losing EJ Manuel to the NFL, Florida State improved in 2013, with Winston leading the way to a national championship. Fisher was hopeful that, once Winston departs, that level of success at quarterback will continue, possibly with Cosentino.

“There’s a standard which we’d like to recruit to, a certain talent level, and we’ve been fortunate to be able to do that,” Fisher said. “I think those quarterbacks have learned off of each other how to study film, how to prepare and how to do the things they have to do, and I think it’s helped them all grow.”

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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